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The Year Without a Summer - Will history repeat itself?
30 May 2013 @ 17:53

This week France’s hated weather forecasters, who have consistently predicted all the awful weather that has hit France over the recent months have announced that we could be facing one of the coldest summers in 200 years all across Western Europe. So if you were about to put away your winter clothes, hold on!  Their weather channel announced that there is a 70% chance of not even having a real summer this year across Spain, France, Portugal, Germany and Austria. Not quite sure what relation Austria has but hey, I’m not a weatherman. The frightening figure is that there is only an 8% chance that we will have a hot one! How they work this out defeats me but they have managed to stir up the French hospitality industry, fearing the French may holiday outside France. Now that is worrying 

After a long, cold winter and a spring that has shown temperatures of up to 6ºC below average there are talks that this summer could be as cold as the fabled summer of 1816: The Year Without a Summer.  The climatologist Jean-Pierre Ceron mentions that all hope is not lost just yet and that just because we have had a cold winter and spring doesn’t mean that we will automatically have a cold summer and that we shouldn’t worry just yet. None the less their predictions are based on the cold sea temperatures and weak solar activity during the winter which has noticeably had an affect on Spain’s winter and spring this year and most of Western Europe, so these unusually low temperatures will more than likely bring poor weather for June and July and heavy storms in August. Consequently September and October will be much hotter than usual.

The long forgotten summer of 1816 is not just a fable however it was later attributed to a volcanic eruption on the other side of the earth, but the historians may look back on 2013 and refer to it as a year without a spring. This spring has been the coldest in over 50 years across much of the UK and Europe, and the bitterest ever recorded in places like Sheffield. From Kiev, Moscow and Berlin in the east of Europe to Dublin, Edinburgh and Copenhagen, temperatures for the fourth or fifth week in March barely rose above freezing and an Arctic wind made it seem even chillier. In Germany they called it the "100-year winter". In Bonn, people were said to be desperate to get out. Some would say that human habits and characteristics are shaped by geographical conditions. In 1816, the miserable weather encouraged people to emigrate. In Germany, the shortage of oats to feed horses is said to have spawned ideas that led to the development of the bicycle. In Switzerland, the Shelleys and their chums were kept indoors by the "wet, ungenial summer" and so wrote stories such as Frankenstein. 

However the “Year Without a Summer” brought a long far more destruction than creation. It was an agricultural disaster. The unusual climatic aberrations of 1816 had the greatest effect on the northeastern United States, Atlantic Canada, and parts of western Europe. Typically, the late spring and summer of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada are relatively stable: temperatures (average of both day and night) average between about 68 °F (20 °C) and 77 °F (25 °C) and rarely fall below 41 °F (5 °C). Summer snow is an extreme rarity.
In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent "dry fog" was observed in the northeastern US. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight, such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall dispersed the "fog". It has been characterized as a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil.
At higher elevations where farming was touch and go in the good years, the cooler climate did not quite support agriculture. In May 1816, frost killed off most of the crops that had been planted, and on 4 June 1816, frosts were reported in Connecticut, and by the following day, most of New England was gripped by the cold front.  On 6 June 1816, snow fell in Albany, New York, and Dennysville, Maine. A Massachusetts historian summed up the disaster: "Severe frosts occurred every month; June 7th and 8th snow fell, and it was so cold that crops were cut down, even freezing the roots .... In the early Autumn when corn was in the milk it was so thoroughly frozen that it never ripened and was scarcely worth harvesting. Breadstuffs were scarce and prices high and the poorer class of people were often in straits for want of food. It must be remembered that the granaries of the great west had not then been opened to us by railroad communication, and people were obliged to rely upon their own resources or upon others in their immediate locality." Cool temperatures and heavy rains resulted in failed harvests in Britain and Ireland as well. Families in Wales travelled long distances as refugees, begging for food. Famine was prevalent in north and southwest Ireland, following the failure of wheat, oats, and potato harvests. The crisis was severe in Germany, where food prices rose sharply. Due to the unknown cause of the problems, demonstrations in front of grain markets and bakeries, followed by riots, arson, and looting, took place in many European cities. It was the worst famine of the 19th century.

It is believed that the anomaly was caused by a combination of a historic low in solar activity with a volcanic winter event, the latter caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the largest known eruption in over 1,300 years, which occurred during the concluding decades of the Little Ice Age, potentially adding to the existing cooling that had been periodically ongoing since 1350 AD. 

Although things don’t look that bad, let’s hope there isn’t a volcanic eruption anywhere on Earth as the accumulation of events may lead to epic consequences. Even without this crops in Spain may well be affected, last year there was hardly any rain and the olive harvest was one of the lowest in recent history, this year however rain has been abundant and it appears that there won’t be any shortage this summer either but the serious drops in temperature may affect the olive tree’s ability to generate oil, as it needs heat and a lot of it.  However that said I quite fancy a cooler summer, not sure about the rest of you but I find the stifling heat of Spain in July and August just unbearable.

Like 0


Gerald said:
31 May 2013 @ 01:49

but hold on! Didn't the scientists tell us just a few years ago of a warming of the earth?

Richard said:
01 June 2013 @ 05:10

There is always a bright side.

A cold summer in the UK and Northern Europe will boost the number of last minute booking for holiday makers to Spain.

michael said:
01 June 2013 @ 07:17

Great article. Thank you

lifeline said:
01 June 2013 @ 07:19

What a welcome thought for those of us who swelter in the blistering heat of the costas in south west Spain!

graeme said:
01 June 2013 @ 07:40

30 here yesterday...thats works for me

summer is here

Tamara said:
01 June 2013 @ 07:54

Perfect! Spring and autumn were always the best seasons in Spain. Summer WAY too hot, as others have said. So lets have spring, then more spring, then a bit of autumn, and then proper autumn - lovely!

Barbara said:
01 June 2013 @ 08:55

I agree that acooler summer would be more comfortable - but I am going back to England for July and August so I guess I better make the most of the sun we have at the moment!

rob said:
01 June 2013 @ 09:46

As it is the jet stream that controls where the weather goes it is beyond the reach of the most aspiring environmentalist. Add the sea currents, all beyond the reach of the fundamentalists at the University of East Anglia and you realize that the current trend of politicians to tax us out of existence on the grounds of climate change,global warming or fuel reserves is no more than that. Today Cameron is carrying out ecological cleansing by killing off the badgers of Somerset and Gloucestershire.

IslayMac said:
01 June 2013 @ 09:49

I can but hope! This will be the first July and August that I have spent in Costa Almeria and I was beginning to worry as to whether I would need to go for a holiday in a more northerly direction, but if this forecast materialises it could solve all my worries!

Steve Rayner said:
01 June 2013 @ 10:02

Excellent if depressing comment from Rob: Yes, the jet stream should be over Greenland about now, but is running through the middle of Spain. To the north is's cold and wet, below the jet stream it is warmer but still wetter than usual and very windy.

Tony said:
01 June 2013 @ 11:24

We live in an old house in the UK and have needed the central heating on every evening since the third week in August apart from about 3 days over the last two weeks.

Spain is looking very attractive for a long break next winter!

Mac75 said:
01 June 2013 @ 15:56

Thanks all, for your comments. I certainly welcome lower temperatures, but somehow I don't think we will get them.. today 30ºC in Valencia but I must admit at night the temperature drops more than usual, so maybe we will see some slight change... I hope so. I can't stand the humidity here in the summer.

wetherman said:
01 June 2013 @ 19:56

Please take a look at what I said a few days ago.

Rob said:
01 June 2013 @ 21:42


We just moved from Madrid, were we froze all winter (record cold and rain) to Munich were after we arrived we had about 5 days of glorious sunshine to miserable cold and rain!!!!!!

The way things are going we are going to have a non summer

Astronautilus said:
04 June 2013 @ 09:20

To Gerald, I'd say that global warming is pretty much a reality I'm afraid. However, the term is misleading.... the planet's average temperature will rise, but some areas will cool down.

For examplem melting ice in the north Atlantic could cause the Gulf Stream to switch off. Northern Europe and especially the UK will then get Siberian winters.

ExpatWannabe said:
04 June 2013 @ 19:06

I always find it amazing/amusing when these forecasters who can't accurately predict what the weather is going to be like tomorrow tell you that they know what's it's going to be for the rest of the summer.

Kernaghan said:
11 June 2013 @ 19:44

We only come in the Spring and Autumn and must say the wind spoilt most of our holiday, looking forward to a better Autumn in a couple of months

Michael Peach said:
14 December 2013 @ 18:30

The climate is very good on average on the Costa Blanca, we are in the Florida of Europe , and we suffer a couple of months of cold weather occasionally not every year, but i am sure for anyone who has been here for over 40 years you would die if you went back home to the U.K., I think you do get an extension on life living here.

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